Hiking speed for a beginner

12:03 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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I was thinking about going for a hike in March from Munich to Bern. This is the planned route:

munichtobern.jpg
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I am a beginner hiker I have never done anything like this before. I am quite fit and healthy so I was thinking about going 30-50kms a day, the whole route is 460km with 2 km elevation.

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I will be carrying a tent (sleeping bag, sleeping mat, sleeping bag liner etc.), some food and water (I will be able to resupply every day except for Sundays) and I will carry a couple of other light weight stuff (first aid kit, a stove etc.), but other then those I will try to keep my backpacks weight to a minimum.

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I have read several books on hiking, read several blogs and magazines and watched a lot of youtube videos.

I have already bought all of my gear, but I don't know yet how much my equipment will weigh, I haven`t decided a couple of things yet.

My question is: what do you think, is it possible for a beginner to hike an average of 40kms (or even more) a day on this terrain in march? I am planning my camping spots and I don't want to book a camping spot in advance and pay for it if I am still fit and full with energy and would rather keep on going.

It would be more interesting for me to keep a fast pace instead of stopping often and looking at everything.

Thanks for any advice, comments and criticism!

4:48 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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Long distance hiking is something folks work up to.  Your trip is longer any single trip  most hikers ever take in their lifetime.  You are a beginner.  Try something much much shorter, say a series of overnighters.  You will learn skills that will make you more comfortable on a longer trip, such as how to deal with weather, kitchen skills, what equipment is necessary and what is optional but worth bringing anyway.  You will also gain a little insight as to what kind of conditioning one needs to endure demanding hikes.

You originally asked how far can one travel in a day.  Conditioning is a huge factor in this determination.  Stating you are "quite fit" is an opinion.  Quite fit relative to what?  How fast do you run 5000 meters?  How much weight can you leg press or how many flights of stairs can you climb?  What is the furthest you previously walked in a single day?  Forty kilometers is eight hours of walking at a good pace with no breaks - on level terrain, without a pack.  You are proposing to walk a distance almost as long as a marathon on a daily basis for several weeks.

Another concern is the weather.  It will be early spring in the mountains.  Do you know what to expect weather wise?  

Here's my take:  You are proposing a formidable challenge, no matter what weight you pack will be.  Most people who are capable of this challenge don't need to ask others if it is feasible, because they know the answer.  They did the preparation, including some means to determine if they personally can do it.  They researched the weather so they know if they are up to dealing with the elements.  And they already obtained experience dealing with the weather and condition expected.  Preparation IS key!  A successful completion is much less likely if you haven't done activities that clearly indicates to you if you are up to this or not.  Thus I am inclined to answer if you must ask us if it is possible, then it probably is not in your case, at least not until you gain the necessary experience and skills, and know if your conditioning is up to such a challenge. 

Ed

5:15 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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Thanks for the reply!

9:07 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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Since you have your gear pack it all up, add a realistic amount of food and water, put it on your back and spend a few days hiking 40km/day. Your question is like someone asking, "will I like this car?" To answer that question go test drive it.

What exactly do you mean by this route having "2km of elevation"? Is that total ascent, total elevation change (ascent+descent)? Is that gross or net? I'm not familiar with that route, but you are skirting the mountains and I suspect the gross elevation change over 460km is considerably more than 2km.

I agree with Ed your plan sounds insanely aggressive for a beginner.

Even if you physically could do this hike, at that pace would you enjoy it?

10:24 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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Good words. 

We have lots of through hikers now in the US traveling 25 miles a day or around 40 km in good weather.  These are experienced people that have worked up to those kind of distances.  It might take you several weeks to get to that speed even if you are fit.  

It is important that you develop skills with your equipment, route finding, and how to deal with tough conditions and emergenices.  Spend some time on shorter trips first.  A big trip should be the end result of your preparation, not the first thing you try.  Trial and error is the wrong way to go about long trips by yourself. 

10:44 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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Agreed ppine, great advice so far, and the phrase "work up to" is key in this context.

I go out pretty frequently (nearly every weekend) and pretty much keep my "hiking legs" year round. Even so, I still have to work up to that kind of sustained mileage on a longer trip. It would be hurtful for me to do otherwise and probably not fun.

11:17 a.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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Great advice above! If Patman has to work up to that mileage I know it's tough! 

For context, I am planning a 2 week (approx 200 mile/300 km) walk across Scotland next May.  While the mileage is different due to terrain and a good bit of off-trail, I plan on doing 15 miles per day on average.  The actual mileage is less important than my plan to work up to that average even though I can easily sustain it on a shorter trip. I go backpacking monthly but plan to gradually increase the length and mileage of my trips so by the time I am going I am as best prepared as possible.  Long day hikes on weekends that I don't have time to backpack will fill in the gaps along with after work walks along a local greenway (with pack on so I look nuts!). It still won't be the same until I get my hill-legs under me about a week in to my trip.

Also, you need to make sure that your equipment is like second nature to you - I hesitate to try out new equipment on a trip like that. 

If you take this on make sure you do plenty of training and are prepared!

7:14 p.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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I would only add that none of this is going to happen if your shoes aren't broken in and up to the challenge.  Yes, you can work your body up to this kind of mileage, but if you get blisters on the first day, your trip is over long before the rest of your body gets into hiking shape....

9:51 p.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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A few years ago a movie came out that you might be aware of called "Wild." It was based on a book written by a woman attempting to do the 2000+ mile Pacific Crest Trail for, in essence, personal catharsis. What ended up happening is a lot of people, particularly women, got turned on to the idea of backpacking. That's nothing but awesome. But it also meant a lot of people learned the difference between building something up in your mind that bares little resemblance to reality.

So while the idea of a long hike is great I'd highly suggest you check in to the reality in advance. Every beginning backpacker makes mistakes. That's how we learn. And the truth is that if you've never been out you're not even sure yet about how you'd handle a night or two alone in a tent. Or if the weather turns, you get blisters, you lose something, etc.

So I'd definitely suggest doing as many overnights or short trips as you can in advance of biting in to a big trip. You'll learn about your own personal skills, including speed and endurance, be able to fine tune your gear and most of all, get to experience the fun that comes from the journey and not necessarily the destination. Happy Trails.

10:14 p.m. on November 15, 2017 (EST)
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  Hiking in Europe is a bit easier because of their hutte system throughout the mountains.  They are usually a half day walking apart from each other so you can walk from hutte to hutte where you can get breakfast lunch or dinner and a bed.  You don’t necessarily need a tent if you use the hutte system.  Check the prices per evening for a bed and dinner.  Bathrooms and showers are part of the deal. Although in some spots there are only a few bathrooms for the whole hutte, sometimes up to 100 people staying there.  Having hiked throughout Europe on and off for the last 15 years the hutte system is great.  Check when they open for the season because there is still snow in the mountains in March and some of them may not open till April-May.

8:06 a.m. on November 16, 2017 (EST)
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Thank you everyone for the replies!

After I have read whomeworry's comment I decided to go for a hike. I made a loop around my house. 9km to a little hill top set up tent and sleep, 9km back shave and shower and go to work.

It had a total elevation gain of 85m (up the hill). I did both ways in less then 1h30min (a total of 3h). Setting up tent (taking out the sleeping mats, sleeping bags etc) and taking it down was around 30mins each time.

It was around -10 Celsius (or 14 Fahrenheit) to -5C/23F Fahrenheit over night (it is now 0C/32F) which is probably the coldest it gets around here.

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I still can't post links. :-/

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whomeworry said:

Long distance hiking is something folks work up to. Your trip is longer any single trip most hikers ever take in their lifetime. You are a beginner. Try something much much shorter, say a series of overnighters. You will learn skills that will make you more comfortable on a longer trip, such as how to deal with weather, kitchen skills, what equipment is necessary and what is optional but worth bringing anyway. You will also gain a little insight as to what kind of conditioning one needs to endure demanding hikes.

I think you are right, I am thinking about doing 25km loops around my house, sleep outside and get back home (shave and shower) go to work and go outside again for 10 days in a row to experience it a little bit.

whomeworry said:

Stating you are "quite fit" is an opinion. Quite fit relative to what? How fast do you run 5000 meters? How much weight can you leg press or how many flights of stairs can you climb? What is the furthest you previously walked in a single day? Forty kilometers is eight hours of walking at a good pace with no breaks - on level terrain, without a pack. You are proposing to walk a distance almost as long as a marathon on a daily basis for several weeks.

I know quite definitely that I could do 3 days of 50+km hiking (on asphalt and trail roads, no mountains involved), the question is: can I do this for 10 days? Probably not.

I need to figure this one out. My problem is usually eating, I don't eat as much as calories as I have burned, for 3 days that is not a big problem, maybe even for 5 days, but 10 is probably to much. The exercise part shouldn't be a problem.

JRinGeorgia said:

What exactly do you mean by this route having "2km of elevation"? Is that total ascent, total elevation change (ascent+descent)? Is that gross or net? I'm not familiar with that route, but you are skirting the mountains and I suspect the gross elevation change over 460km is considerably more than 2km. I agree with Ed your plan sounds insanely aggressive for a beginner. Even if you physically could do this hike, at that pace would you enjoy it?

I am not sure, I think that is the total elevation gain. I don't plan to climb mountains or anything like that, this is mostly on asphalt.

JRinGeorgia said:

Even if you physically could do this hike, at that pace would you enjoy it?

I am not sure, but I guess so.

Phil May said:

Also, you need to make sure that your equipment is like second nature to you - I hesitate to try out new equipment on a trip like that.

Yeah, I am not sure how I will test this, but this is a pretty good advice. I wasn't thinking about this that much.

balzaccom said:

I would only add that none of this is going to happen if your shoes aren't broken in and up to the challenge. Yes, you can work your body up to this kind of mileage, but if you get blisters on the first day, your trip is over long before the rest of your body gets into hiking shape....

This is such a great advice, thank you! I tried my new hiking shoes yesterday (Salewa - MS Trektail) and my ankles hurt a little bit, I need to figure out why and get a new pair of shoes if need be.

T.J. said:

So I'd definitely suggest doing as many overnights or short trips as you can in advance of biting in to a big trip. You'll learn about your own personal skills, including speed and endurance, be able to fine tune your gear and most of all, get to experience the fun that comes from the journey and not necessarily the destination. Happy Trails.

Thank you! I will!

edacewines said:

Hiking in Europe is a bit easier because of their hutte system throughout the mountains.

I checked the Swiss "Hütten" system and most of them won't be open till may. I can change pretty much everything, the length, the destination, the route etc. but I can't change the date. Camp sites are nice as well (a little bit more expensive), but I should be able to shower regularly.

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Any kind of comment and criticism is welcome. I think my adventure plan is still possible, I just need to figure out a couple more things then I thought (for example it was so cold yesterday I couldn't drink from my water bladder anymore, I will need to carry a thermos for water).

10:21 a.m. on November 16, 2017 (EST)
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18km in 3 hours is about 3.7 mph. You sure those numbers are right? Your math makes me skeptical -- average walking speed is about 2 mph, fast hiking speed perhaps 3 mph.

6:17 p.m. on November 16, 2017 (EST)
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JRinGeorgia said:

18km in 3 hours is about 3.7 mph. You sure those numbers are right? Your math makes me skeptical -- average walking speed is about 2 mph, fast hiking speed perhaps 3 mph.

Lol. ^_^

I am sure! :-D

This is my usual "strolling speed".

9:03 p.m. on November 16, 2017 (EST)
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To support Lighttower a bit - I hike for training a lot in the mountains around here in the SFBay area. I carry a small pack with 3 liters of water just to have a bit of weight. My typical hike will be about 13 km and ascent 700 meters. Typical time is a bit less than 3 hours, so 2.7 mph. Keep in mind that I am an old greybeard (just a bit less than 78 years old). And I enjoy the scenery and often pause for a bit to talk to some of the other folks on the trail, especially when I get to the summit.

Since Lighttower is "just a young kid" compared to me, I figure his numbers are pretty much right.

9:33 p.m. on November 16, 2017 (EST)
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I can believe it, the comparison is kind of apples & oranges but the standard when I was in the army (for XVIII Airborne Corps) was 12 miles in 3 hours with full pack, rifle, and gear. Most of the time we did it in slightly under 2, and we weren’t infantry. There was a lot of running, and no breaks. 

10:10 a.m. on November 17, 2017 (EST)
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The people on this post are the kind that would be really fun to hike with.  I have had a few partners in the same league over the years, and I place very high value on their company. 

Solo hiking is different.  I do a lot of solo day hikes for mental health, but for overnights it is fun to have a partner that you can trust.  You have to be ready for the challenge of long periods of time by yourself.  In March you will be around the vernal equinox which means 12 hours of darkness.  Consider how you are going to spend the 4-5 hours in the dark by yourself when you are not sleeping.  Bring some good lights.  Consider some solar lights for around camp. They are cheery and not very bright. 

In Germany like most of Europe there are lots of people around. You will have opportunities to go to towns along the way.  Plan on some layover time to eat, sleep in a bed and do laundry.  Then you can visit with some other people.  

5:41 p.m. on November 18, 2017 (EST)
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I'm not a hiker, but would like to start and I was thinking of something a little less.  My goal is to hike around a 40 acer lake and enjoy the scenery.  Spring will tell if I can do this.  I feel from your post that you are determined and your beginning hike will be benifical to you.  Enjoy

7:35 a.m. on November 19, 2017 (EST)
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Lighttower is this road hiking? I am just wondering since I was in that area back in 90..I know part of it..I had to drive it while in the military...I would agree with a few of the others get out for a few weekends and test your gear and know it second nature...I am a long distance hiker..Start with a little lower milage and work up on your trip...You'll see when your ready to do 20 mile days....

2:09 p.m. on November 20, 2017 (EST)
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I like the old rule of 3 mph for easy trail with a light pack.  2 mph for average mountain travel and 1 mph for crummy trails and steep country.  Really bad conditions like no trail in the brush is more like 1/2 mph. 

December 10, 2017
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